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What Pride Means to Me

Updated: Feb 3, 2018

Pride is here and in full swing with little more than a week until the month’s close. For most, it’s a time for festivals, rallies, parades, and seemingly endless nights of parties with dancing and entertainment. Truly a joyous time to behold with family, friends, and other loved ones in our closest of chosen families. While festivities keep spirits high, there is a deeper meaning behind it. A meaning that touches everyone differently and The Kenosha Pride Board of Directors created this series as we would like to share what Pride means to us.

Growing up in a small, conservative town in Ohio, I struggled to accept my sexuality. Despite the fact that I knew I was different at a young age, I did not come out until I was in high school. Even after moving to Kenosha for college, I still kind of felt unaccepted in many ways. As I have grown older and learned to accept my sexuality, I have learned more about myself and the LGBTQ+ community. Through my early and mid-20’s I fought with myself about who I was.

After a lengthy period of time of self-reflection, self-work, and peace, I accepted who I was. In 2013 I attended my very first Pride events when I was 31 years old. I went to Milwaukee Pridefest and later Chicago Pridefest. My eyes opened up to a world I never knew existed. I did not know these events were around. I started learning about the community and our history, then I started working to put together the very first Kenosha Pride.

For me, Pride is about being yourself. We are here today because people 50 years ago couldn’t be themselves without fear of being targeted. While we still have this fear and concern, we are in a better place today. We have come together to build a larger, stronger community. After the Pulse Nightclub incident last year, I saw the community come together. I saw the sorrow across the country. We all felt the impact, but, I saw a strength come out of a terrible situation. Ultimately, Pride is UNITY, STRENGTH, REMEMBERANCE, and HOPE!

Dan Seaver

Kenosha Pride Board of Directors

President of the Board

Pride: An opportunity to take the time to be truly proud of who you are. We take this time to celebrate the LGBT community, but to also remind everyone to love themselves regardless of gender, race, or sexuality. I want pride to bring people together whether they are LGBT or just a supporter. I want this to be a chance for the Kenosha community to grow together.

Lisa Butler

Kenosha Pride Board of Directors

Director of Events

The question of pride for many LGBTQIS people of color is a complicated question. The answer at the core of it is not just the rejection of being invisible but the demand to be seen as a whole. Whole meaning, the public embrace that affirms no person is a single piece, but a mosaic-many different pieces, each worthy of love, respect and human decency. I always remind myself that it was a black gay man, Bayard Rustin, who taught the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. the principles of non-violence and black queer woman Marsha P. Johnson at Stonewall who launched a fight against government oppression that lasted for three consecutive days. Only where things meet and collide can we struggle and come to a resolution to make change. Without the intervention of struggle, we do not change course and we do not change ourselves. It is only by embracing that struggle, daring to stand in that storm of disruption, where we can learn our deepest lessons. When we learn those lessons, we come back time and time to the same realization, that without each other we will never move civilization forward.

Dayvin Hallmon

Kenosha Pride Board of Directors

Director of Government Affairs

When I was growing up, we used to spend every Christmas at my Uncle Jeff’s house. His house had the most amazing decorations. I loved the way the lights twinkled and how they made the ornaments shine. There was one Christmas that sticks out quite well in my memory. At the time it seemed quite insignificant, but as I have grown it has become much more important.

We had arrived at my uncle’s house late in the afternoon, as we usually did. Like most kids that age, I was excited to play with my cousins and open presents. After playing with my cousins and siblings for a while, I began to wander around the house hoping we would be opening presents soon. That’s when I noticed something different. My cousins had their bedrooms and my Uncle Jeff had his bedroom, but where did Uncle Bill sleep? Curious, I went to go ask my mom. She told me that Uncle Bill slept in the same bedroom as Uncle Jeff. A bit skeptical, I informed her that there was only one bed in there. She responded by telling me that just like her and dad shared a bed, Uncle Jeff and Uncle Bill shared a bed too. Satisfied with her answer, I went back to playing.

I grew up in a family where being gay was completely normal. There was never a real moment of exposure. It just was what is was. To me, it was so normal that when I went to my first Pride event I felt that it was just another place to spend time with family and friends.

My brother came out to me years later. He and I were driving somewhere and he pulled over the car. He said he needed to tell me something and I could see he was upset and afraid. My mind began to race. Was he seriously ill? Did he do something? Did he hurt someone? Was he going to jail? A million thoughts ran through my mind. He then told me he was gay and asked me not to disown him. As he spoke I felt an intense mixture of emotions. I was relieved, happy, and extremely angry. I wasn’t angry because he was gay. I was angry because he scared me. My brother being gay did not matter to me. If he was happy, I was happy.

Once I entered my teen years, I began to see that not everyone was as accepting of the LGBT+ community. I was hurt and angry. I didn’t understand why some people thought being gay was wrong. I didn’t understand why some friends of mine were scared to come out to their family. I saw folks who wanted the people I love to hide who they are, to be ashamed of who they were. Not everyone is lucky enough to grow up with an accepting and supportive family, like I was. This is when I learned the importance of Pride.

Pride has taken on many different meanings to me over the years. It first was just another way to spend time with my loved ones. As I grew up, it became a way to show my support for the people that I love, to stand with them in celebrating who they are. Pride, to me, means being a community, celebrating the accomplishments, and to provide support.

Kate Daugherty

Kenosha Pride Board of Directors

Executive Assistant

Pride to me is something that goes beyond the definition of an emotion or a specific feeling. For me it is a tangible thing, a force of collective nature that binds our community in ways that see beyond our differences and unites us in a way that no one 50 years ago could have imagined. In all the 11 years I have participated in Pride events, there is always a moment. A moment where I separate myself from the team I'm on and look at the creations coming down the street, see the teams moving with them, the crowds cheering them on. It's then when I become overwhelmed with Pride. I know that these teams worked hard to get here and I know that they haven't asked for anything in return. They have PRIDE in themselves and that makes me PROUD of them and the parades they are in.

Sean Young

Kenosha Pride Board of Directors

Secretary of the Board

Growing up in a multiracial and multicultural home, I've never really questioned anything about myself and what it means to be me. Without a doubt, I was always just Diamond. And that's who I am to this day.

People often ask me, "what are you," in regards to many things; my ethnicity and my orientation are usually the crowd favorites. I never know how to answer because I never thought it mattered much. I know that I am black and I know that I am not heterosexual. And to me, that in and of itself, is pride. Pride to me is a simple thing; it's having a sense of self, and being confident with that sense of self.

When I dated my first and only girlfriend, neither of my parents or grandparents or siblings or anyone in my family thought anything of it. They just accepted that this person was someone I cared for and was going to be around. I never had to "come out," and I don't know if that's a good or bad thing; I don't know if I missed out on some huge pivotal and inspiring moment of self exploration and confidence. I'm just incredibly happy and privileged to be able to have the support system that I do. I know that people judge me. They judge who I am, what I do, and what it means to be Diamond. And that's completely okay with me. Because I have a lot of pride; I have a lot of confidence in who I am as a person and lot of support to help remind me that I am the best me that there could ever be. I want to help other people come to that conclusion about themselves as well.

I get a lot of people who ask me, especially in this field, what my orientation is. "I don't think we know," they joke. "I don't even think she knows," they joke harder. They're not wrong. I'm not entirely sure where I fall as far as labels and spectrums and etc. And I think that's okay. And it's okay if you feel the same exact way. And that's why I do what I do; to make sure other people know it's okay to be themselves, it's a journey to find pride in yourself, and it's a honorable adventure to explore yourself.

I'm just Diamond, and I take great pride in that.

Diamond Hartwell

Kenosha Pride Board of Directors

Director of Volunteers

Pride isn't just a month to me. It's a constant in my life. Pride is about living every day with integrity and honesty.

Chris Smith

Kenosha Pride Board of Directors

Director of Finance

Every year I ask myself this same question. What does Pride mean to me? The short answer is that is a period of time once a year when I can gather with the people of my “tribe” and spend a weekend living out loud. But, honestly, Pride is so much more than that. Recently, I had a discussion with my son and his girlfriend about the events that took place in Orlando, FL. It was a reflection on how that horrible event made me feel. As, I am sure, it made MANY people feel horrible. It reminded me that when I was growing up it wasn’t safe to be out of the closet. I didn’t come out to my family until I was 30 years old. Even then, it felt risky to be seen in public by the straight community or to be a lesbian openly at work. It took several years before I understood what it meant to “be” me. I slowly felt that our community was safer than it had been when I was young and questioning. The horrible attack at the Pulse Nightclub brought all those feelings back in full force. I felt as I did when I was a young woman. I was afraid to be me again.

I’ve been an out lesbian for nearly 18 years. In that time, I’ve figured out that I have to be true to my loved ones, my community and myself. My community is more than just my LGBTQ+ family and friends. It includes my neighborhood and my workplace, too. These places contain people from all walks of life. I am grateful for all of them. I have PRIDE in those places. I have PRIDE in my relationships and friendships with the people in those places. I have PRIDE in the love, kindness, compassion and gratitude of the folks in those places.

Celebrating Pride is not just one month a year. PRIDE is a feeling I get when I think about the amazing people that have come before me to pave the way. It’s the feeling I have when I look at the LGBTQ community and see how far we have come in the acceptance of ourselves.

Amanda Lawrence

Kenosha Pride Board of Directors

Director of Fundraising

I was 32 years old when I finally experienced my first Pride event and it was in Erie, Pennsylvania. It was small. VERY small. Not much more than 100 people, but to me it may as well have been a thousand. Despite its size, I was finally able to see a network of individuals coming together to march, enjoy entertainment, and hear words of comfort from elected officials, church leaders, and others. I was able to see people like me standing proud and being open about who they were with their loved ones. This brought to me a sense of elation and began to wash away the shame that had enveloped me for far too long.

Now that I am a touch older, the meaning has slightly changed for me. The events in Orlando last summer and current events involving the LGBT community have really shown me the complexities of Pride. I now attend with a slightly heavier heart. I am reminded of our history and the many whom have helped bring awareness and acceptance, but also of how far we have to go. These pioneers have passed the torch in hopes we can bring a brighter future for ourselves and future generations. While I will attend Pride with joy and hope in my heart, it is a reminder that we must come together and continue their work as a rising force of solidarity.

I’ve attended Pride events all around the country. Partaking in the parties and dancing, sharing a few drinks with friends, and meeting new people. Each time was like coming home, like visiting a family that understood everything I have struggled with in my past. Attending these events has given a large contribution of strength that shaped who I am today. I view it as a great opportunity to give back to my community and give others an outlet they may not have in their daily lives.

Tofer King

Kenosha Pride Board of Directors

Marketing Director


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